Post by Margarida Martins
It’s been said that it takes almost 2 years to assimilate into a new culture and to have less feelings of loneliness. Well, I believe that this is only a matter of time (which depends on each person) until we realize the big differences between our native country and the country we choose to live in – between how we used to live before and how we live it now.
Being outside of the comfort zone is a challenge. Our perspective about the world and the others, the way we see things and how we deal with worries, I guess it only depends on us – if we want to embrace it or not, if we want to improve and grow as a person or not. Not everyone is fast to adapt/adjust to the new environment and even not everyone is a fast learner. This takes time (of course) and I didn’t learn to go through all these things just by myself. I always had help and advise from my colleagues and friends (and also from the people I met). It was the the learning experiences and activities we had together, and for that I am totally G-R-A-T-E-F-U-L for 🙏🏻.
For me, it has been already 8 months of living abroad (as a volunteer) here in Hyvärilä, and I still have 1 more month left. I must say, what an A-M-A-Z-I-N-G experience I have ever had in my whole life, so far! And I’m not being ironic or sarcastic. I know that adapting to a new environment, a new country and a new culture, never comes easy. But what makes this special and meaningful (which certainly I will take with me, forever) is the learning outcomes that I got from here. It is what I discover about myself (some habits, behaviours, actions, reactions) and, not less important, what I discover to improve myself. Starting from the experiences I had, the friends I made, the people I met – to the moments when I shared my story with the others, and when I got to listen the story of the others. This has been giving to me such a different P-E-R-S-P-E-C-T-I-V-E and also a diversity of experience.
Let’s start from the beginning. The first time I arrived in Hyvärilä (March 2019) everything was exciting and new for me, and very beautiful because of the snow. I had a lot of free time in the beginning, so I started to explore and discover more the place around me (before the work starts). Finnish camp-school season was my first activity in Hyvärilä and I wasn’t prepared at all. It was the very first time that I got involved with youth work, so I felt anxious and nervous because it was way beyond what I am used to do, at work. I didn’t had so many leadership skills to instruct groups of people, so I started to see how leaders (youth workers) run the activities for the youngsters, asking them all of my questions.
Then it was the youth exchanges and I must say what a W-O-N-D-E-R-F-U-L world. This was the activity where I had the chance to meet different people, from other countries and the other part of the world. For me, it was the best part of volunteering. It was when young people arrived in Hyvärilä, with the purpose to get to know each other, meet other cultures and learn more about themselves. I got out of my comfort zone (again) when I was doing the workshops with them. For the first time, discomfort was where I felt most comfortable. I stepped into confidence building when I wasn’t feeling judge by the others and when I wasn’t feeling fear in expressing myself, and opinion, to the others. Everyone stepped into open mind when listening the others, accepting differences no matter where we came from, how old we are, if we can speak well or not in front of a big group. I could discover much more about myself when I was surrounded by different people 💛.
I also had a lot of free-time, I visited and explored many other places, I got to know more about the finnish culture and I met other ESC volunteers, also living in Finland. But living in a rural area was definitely something challenging for me. I didn’t have what I used to have in my town so, many times, I caught myself spending more time thinking and observing, instead of doing something. Overthinking was the worst thing, it was when I got to make things bigger and more negative than they needed to be. It was when I chose to spent more time alone. So I started being more active and somehow keeping myself busy (joining the activities that I was invited for, spending time with my hobbies or focusing on my personal project). I gained a lot of respect about self-care and well-being and also being with others helped a lot, psychological and emotional.
Learning how to deal better with myself, focusing on what really matters for me and taking care of myself was one of the learning outcomes (that I wanted to achieve) from this experience. I noticed many things of me that I couldn’t see clearly before. I got to know much more on this aspect and I really feel lucky to have found out an opportunity such as this. I gained valuable experience and this, for sure, I will use for the future.
Living in a different country made me realize that despite coming from other culture, in the end we are all not so different and we want all the same. When we look from our soul, and not from our mind, our view change. So cheers to the experiences that free our souls!